Anticipates Increasing Demand For UAV Pilots In The U.S. In Two
As early as 2012, thousands of civilian unmanned air vehicles
(UAVs) could take to the sky, if the FAA allows them to share U.S.
airspace with other aircraft. When that happens, professionals will
be needed to operate them remotely, both as pilots and as sensor
operators, when they carry video and audio equipment.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is stepping up to fill that
need with a new minor in Unmanned Aircraft Systems that begins on
the university's Daytona Beach, FL, campus in the fall semester of
2010. The 15-credit minor will consist of five courses: Unmanned
Aircraft Systems; Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations and
Cross-Country Data Entry; Operational Aspects of Unmanned Aircraft;
UAS Robotics; and Unmanned Sensing Systems.
Students in the program will learn about the uses of civilian
and military UAVs, how to select UAVs for civilian use, regulations
governing their operation, and maintenance requirements. When they
graduate they will be qualified for jobs as UAV pilots and sensor
operators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Embry-Riddle's Next Generation Advanced Research Lab is
developing a virtual-reality air traffic system that will allow
students to fly a simulated unmanned aircraft. While unmanned
aircraft normally make news for military uses, such as
reconnaissance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan,
UAVs can also be used for many civilian tasks. UAVs patrol the U.S.
borders with Mexico and Canada and soon they will monitor the east
coast of Florida. They also are used to detect forest fires and
relay images to firefighters.
Police forces have envisioned missions for UAVs as well, but the
FAA currently restricts their use in civilian areas unless
prospective users can prove the UAVs won't be hazardous to
airplanes or people on the ground. The approval process can take 45
"UAVs can do things that are impossible or too dangerous for
regular aircraft to do," says Ted Beneigh, who initiated
Embry-Riddle's new academic program. "For example, tiny 'insect
UAVs' equipped with audio and video sensors can fly through windows
and into limited spaces to assist with a rescue or security. In
Japan, they're used as crop dusters, and in Canada model
airplane-sized UAVs equipped with sensors fly over fields and
identify which crops are healthy and which need help."
Beneigh, a professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle,
serves as a technical expert on an FAA-funded research agreement
with the university that is laying the groundwork for UAV access to
the national airspace system for the FAA.